Preaching Patience isn’t Popular
Some part of me gets it. You sat in your office chair, on your couch, in your car, listening to coverage, swiping down so Twitter would refresh, or hoping that Shutdown Inning’s Live Winter Meeting Tracker would have some update besides, “The Rangers are talking to (insert team) about (insert player).”
But, while every other team in the AL West made some marquee moves to improve their situation, Jon Daniels and company’s one free agent deal was for a 32-year old guy who quite literally has never pitched in the Majors, nor has he pitched under a Major League banner since 2009. That guy is Tony Barnette and that’s not even official.
So while you watched the Red Sox get David Price, the Diamondbacks get Zack Greinke (who you probably believed the Rangers NEEDED to get), the Cubs get Ben Zobrist and John Lackey and Jason Heyward and retool their already potent lineup, and you wondered, “Why, why, why?” before just admitting defeat. The Rangers are going to be awful next year, you’ve already convinced yourself of that. The Front Office doesn’t care, and the clubhouse atmosphere (and the overall fun of the club) is going to suffer tremendously without Mike Napoli. Obviously.
Step away from the ledge, Rangers fans. Remember this about Jon Daniels: he is always thinking about the future. Even when he traded for Mike Napoli this past July, when he said the move was about “now,” the move allowed us as Rangers fans and them as the front office to see what a power bat does to lengthen this particular lineup, how Jeff Banister could utilize a lineup that featured a surplus of useful players at one position (he got creative), and what direction this club needed to go in this winter. The “time frame” of the “future” can change – three months, six months, two years – but Daniels is always a few moves ahead of where you think he is.
Here’s a few “Questions of Panic” (new hashtag?) that I’ve seen across social media regarding your Texas Rangers.
1. Why doesn’t Ray Davis, a BILLIONAIRE, open the checkbook and get all the players?
As San Diego so thankfully demonstrated last year, getting all of the players doesn’t necessarily mean that you automatically get the best regular season team. But even that is not the main answer to this question.
I had a computer teacher in high school, also one of the team’s baseball coaches, incidentally, who had just purchased a new BMW. “Dang, Coach,” I said, “I didn’t know this teaching gig paid that much!” “Oh yeah, I’m rich,” he replied. “You know how I stay rich?” “How’s that, Coach?” “I eat at Wendy’s.”
He was joking…probably…maybe. About the rich part, anyways. But what he said made a lot of sense to me. Amass your wealth and keep it by addressing your needs at the low end of the market. Everybody’s got to eat, but not everyone has to dine at The French Laundry. And sometimes, the best burgers are at hole-in-the-wall joints and the best BBQ is the one you make at home. Finally, on food and baseball (I’m hungry, okay?), sometimes the chicken fried steak and lard fries is on the menu, but the grilled chicken salad with oil and vinegar is what the body needs.
2. Why don’t we just trade Mitch Moreland and sign Napoli already?
It always takes two to tango. The Rangers came to the Pirates wanting a Rolex for Moreland, and Pittsburgh instead offered a Fossil. That’s not to say that Fossil’s a bad watch, but if you’re going to splurge with your hard earned, homegrown money, it better be for something quality.
That’s right, I said splurge. In case you had forgotten, Moreland wasn’t a vapid hole last season. With a career high in plate appearances and at-bats, your 29-year old first baseman with a defined role in a healthy year posted a career-high slash of .278/.330/.482, 23 homers and 85 RBI. Napoli over his career in Boston? .242/.350/.436. Napoli’s also 34.
The Seattle Mariners were rumored to have been looking at signing Mike Napoli to fill their first base need, but instead decided to turn towards Milwaukee’s Adam Lind because he probably made more sense financially. Lind is going to make $8 million in 2016, so the Mariners must have heard that Napoli was going to make a decent amount more (what’s $1-2 million more? But $4-7 million more…?) and didn’t want to do that. Looking at question one up there, would you want to spend starting pitcher money on a past-prime first baseman (who you might play in the outfield…) with streaky power? Or would you rather have, you know, a right-handed bat who is an actual outfielder and might cost $5 million?
And would being “stuck” with Mitch Moreland really be so bad?
3. Why hasn’t the Front Office either A) signed one of those lower end starting pitchers with no Qualifying Offer or B) traded for one of those types of pitchers to fill the rotation out?
Sometimes, it takes three (or more!) to dance. Even though Price, Greinke and Jeff Samardzija have found their new homes, remember there’s a good handful of other pitchers that are still looking. Signing baseball players is a competitive game, not just for the clubs looking for players, but for the players themselves. Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Wei-Yin Chen, and Yovani Gallardo are still looking for jobs, and that means that decisions across all thirty teams on pitchers like Colby Lewis, Scott Kazmir, Kyle Kendrick, Mat Latos and the others are going to wait. Also remember it’s not just the teams waiting to see where the big fish end up swimming, it’s the agents, too, who want to see what the rest of the market looks like before finding that next contract. Kazmir could sign somewhere for $12-15 million right now, sure, but if some team gets desperate for pitching and wants to pay him $17 million, well, why not wait and see?
The same goes for trades, too. We’ve already seen pitcher trades go down with the likes of Craig Kimbrel, Ken Giles and Shelby Miller, and those two went to their new teams, the Astros and Diamondback respectively, at a very steep price in prospects. What would another desperate team offer the Cleveland Indians for Carlos Carrasco or someone comparable from another team? The waiting game is not just torturous for fans, but for players and teams, it’s a big game of Chicken, waiting to see who blinks first.
4. Why do the Rangers keep getting involved in relievers?
As I stated above, Daniels’ moves are always geared for the future. As baseball has seen, strong bullpens are the hottest trend and best bet these days to field a successful club. Quality relievers who have experience in high-leverage situations are as hot a commodity as a writing utensil on the second day of school. The Rangers, by my count, have twelve such pitchers on their 40-man roster, with one more on the way, depending on what you qualify as a “high-leverage situation.” There sure isn’t room for all of them at the Major League level, and I’m pretty sure Daniels knows that this is a day and age where these types of arms are at their absolute highest value. At the end of the day, you want the Rangers to be able to get a good haul for at least one of these arms and still be comfortable with the options you have remaining just beyond that right-center field fence. Once we see the rest of the pitching market shake out, we’ll better be able to see what exactly the Rangers can get for what pitcher, and then we can start worrying about who gets moved where.
5. I’m hungry. Why wait? Where’s our Snickers bar?
Like I said, I’m hungry. Last season, San Diego made a deal to acquire Craig Kimbrel from the Atlanta Braves on the day that the season started. It’s not even Christmas yet. Calm down, drink some eggnog (or whatever…I hate eggnog), and realize that good things come to those who wait.
If you think that the Texas Rangers are finished and you can start putting together your projections for the Opening Day 25-Man Roster that hosts the “new and improved” Seattle Mariners on April 4th, well, make sure you do it in pencil. Be ready to erase a name or two and learn how to spell a name like “Ruggiano,” and then stay tuned to us at Shutdown Inning for the full analysis of who your next surprise Texas Ranger is going to be.
And always be thankful that the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are paying Josh Hamilton to play for the Texas Rangers and that that is prohibiting them from playing in the high-end free agent market, when they really, really want to. At least you don’t have that problem.